Into the Water – By Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterRating:

Synopsis2 A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My reviewPaula Hawkins’ second book, relies a lot on the history of the small town forming the story’s setting for the haunting feeling that permeates throughout the book. This, along with almost a dozen narrators, is what provides the book with much of the smokescreen for what ultimately is a fairly simplistic resolution to the murder mystery.

Getting into the story does take some time, especially with so many narrators. It did throw me off a bit because I am not used to reading multi-PoVs that are more than 3 or 4. But with each narrator came a small but significant chunk of jigsaw pieces to the main puzzle at the heart of the plot and I am just glad that I actually caught onto and remembered all the minute details. Into the Water had what, in my opinion, makes the best kind of whodunits – where you guess the answers to some of the “smaller” questions based on what the author feeds you but are still stumped by the final revelation.

I loved the The Girl on the Train and I guess it is natural to have high expectations from the authors’ second books after their fab debuts. Into the Water is no TGotT – I felt the latter was definitely more character-driven with an alcoholic as the primary unreliable narrator. However, with Into the Water, I just felt that the large number of narrators somehow ended up inhibiting the author from actually devoting time to SHOWING how the people in the community felt about or got along with each other before and after the two successive deaths in their town. One of the main characters, Jules, who is actually the first narrator and who being one of the dead women’s sister, is at the heart of plot, didn’t make any impression on me at all. This was despite all the flashbacks we get about Jules and her sister in their teens. I actually found the backstory through the flashbacks more powerful and somehow connected with the younger Jules more than the present-day one – despite her transformation from someone who was ambivalent about her sister’s story or her niece’s emotional well-being to someone who finally starts making an effort. I connected more with her niece Lena’s frustration at her aunt and everyone around her who were trying to “meddle” into her mom’s and best friend’s deaths instead of believing her convictions that they were suicides.

The book has a dark, unhappy cloud shrouding it the whole time, but you don’t have any time to dwell on any particular mood because of all the frequent narrator changes. Though that is a good thing in terms of keeping the pace of the novel from dropping, the flipside of it was that some of the emotional moments didn’t make much of an impact on me. There were deaths, families grieving, a funeral, estranged families and a doomed love story but none of them moved me all that much. However, if you loved Hawkins’ writing in her first book, and if you are up for a good murder mystery; I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this. If I have to compare between the two, this one was definitely cleverer.

 

Mummy’s Little Angel – by J.W.Lawson

Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book via iReads book tour in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

        Kindle       Paperback          Hardcover          Barnes & Noble      Friesen Press

Synopsis2Joanne didn’t believe that her life could become worse than it already was. She had lost everybody and everything she had loved. Surely she had suffered enough? The press had called Joanne’s identical twins psychopaths. Her Maggie. Her Annie. But she still loved them, even though one of them had killed her husband, Jeff. Joanne believed that his murder had been an accident. How could one of her girls be a murderer? She knew them better than anybody else; they were good girls really. She just had to prove it… The brutal murder of Joanne’s goddaughter, Laura had never been solved. Items had been missing when Laura’s remains were discovered: clues that could lead to the capture of her killer. One of them was Laura’s doll … the doll that Joanne later discovers in her home. Joanne is facing the most horrific dilemma of her life. Has the wrong woman been imprisoned? Could her child have used such brutality against her best friend? Or could both women be innocent after all? Joanne needs to find somebody for her daughter to confide in; somebody she will trust. She needs a miracle. There is only one person who can help. He is compassionate and caring, with an amazing ability to gain the trust of the most difficult patients. He is Joanne’s only hope. He is Jonathan Davies.

My reviewGosh, this was wild!!! The last book I read which used unreliable narrators this well was Girl on the train. GotT’s main narrator was unreliable because of alcoholism. But here, we are never really sure whose account is true. There are three primary narrators, Joanne, Annie and Maggie. Joanne’s version probably read the “truest” version of what she knew, which was honestly not a lot, and we are left wondering how much of it is clouded by bias towards either of or both of her daughters. But what really messes your head up (and so badly!!) is the contradicting laptop “diary” entries of Annie and Maggie where each one accuses the other of being the psychopathic monster.

There are always two aspects to a psychological thriller. The “psychological” part and the “thriller/mystery” part (duh! :P).  So I thought I will talk about both of them separately:

Psychological : Brilliant, and just so creepy!! The sort of vile creepiness that will make you cringe at the baser inhuman/human desires, proclivities and violence. The diseased mind that blurs distinctions between rape, pedophilia and BDSM. The ending made my stomach curl and wish so bad for a sequel!!

(Note:  Let me just state clearly though that the book does not have any graphic violence described in present tense. All of it is past reminiscences by Annie and Maggie.  We don’t really read any long, detailed scenes. So, if you are uncomfortable about actually reading through detailed scenes but don’t mind reading a book that briefly talks about the violence at many places, then, I think this book should be a safe read)

Annie and Maggie both sound so honest in their accounts of what happened that you are even if you do have a “guess” about who is the guilty one or what might have happened, you can’t help but keep changing your mind about who is the more/lesser of the two evils!! Yes, evil! That’s the vibe throughout, that maybe one of the two is not “that guilty” and maybe there is a little bit of “niceness” somewhere, but completely innocent? Heck, no!

I loved how the author plays with our instinctive tendencies to sympathize with people’s outward circumstances, without delving deeper into how that is even related to the person’s guilt. So, in one chapter, I am feeling sorry Annie not getting much attention from her parents during childhood and now being incarcerated for murder (Oh, poor Annie!) and in the next, I am feeling terrible that Maggie can’t even look in the mirror without staring back at her “ugliness” (Oh, poor Maggie!)

This is just me, going through the motions of a reader, so I can’t imagine how it must have been for Joanne! Considering everything that has happened to her, she somehow still keeps her sanity. But, just barely. With her family lost forever, and vacating the house that they lived in, it is a painful process of letting go. Holding on is equally painful – especially when you are not sure which daughter to hold on to. The murders not just wreck her emotionally but also end up causing her to lead the rest of life alone in increasingly deteriorating health. Her only support is her brother and I loved how the author communicated Joanne’s frustrations with him. She appreciates all that he does for her but also has to tolerate his overbearing interference in how to deal with her feelings towards her daughters. We also meet Laura’s parents – Susan and Richard and through them we get a complete picture of the devastation wrecked on both families after Laura’s murder.

Mystery: The main revelation was stunning and though it was something I guessed (well, a part of it), I loved how it was built up throughout the book and how consistent the “narrating” was – both Annie’s and Maggie’s. I think the issue I had with the book was there there were too many past murders/attempted murders tied in with what was happening in the present. That, in addition with some forensic clues strewn about and revealed later in the book was really confusing to follow. Everything was tried to be made “important” to the main plotline. No wonder then, that I kept thinking that Joanne’s mother and her schizophrenia also had something to do with the “Who killed them all?” question. There were also a couple of major timeline discrepancies (I read and re-read and “fact checked” and still couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation) . I also felt something was amiss when so much of Joanne’s family is spoken about and I just kept wondering what purpose it served. On a whim, I googled online and found out Joanne’s mom and another character from this book actually appear in the author’s previous novel.  So, though this book is a standalone, just the knowledge that there was a previous book that covered what happened to Joanne’s mom helps in understanding why Joanne’s mom makes an appearance in this story. But, take that away, and you are left with a feeling that she is a bit of an unnecessary add-on.

Overall impressions A bit clunky towards the end (I am still a bit confused about a couple of facts), but if you love gory psychological thrillers that demand you pay attention to detail, then I would definitely recommend this one! This is one of those stories which finishes with a delicious open-ended twist. Ohh, the last chapter was so wicked… and so perfect!!!!

Book trailer:

About the author:

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Award Winning Author, JW Lawson is already gaining recognition for her writing talents in the US and world-wide. The second of a trilogy of sensational thrillers,Mummy’s Little Angel is the winner of the highly acclaimed Worlds Best Story competition and has also received some outstanding reviews from the professional team of judges in the competition. She is currently writing her third thriller, Crossroads which will be available in 2017 and the final book of the current series, Hush Little Baby will be available in 2018.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Check out all the tour stops!:
Sept 5 –   Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
Sept 6 –   Ali – The Dragon Slayer – review / guest post / giveaway
Sept 7 –   Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
Sept 7 –   Fantastic Feathers – review
Sept 8 –   Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sept 8 –   Keenly Kristin – review
Sept 9 –   The Autistic Gamer – review
Sept 12 – Cover2Cover – book spotlight / giveaway
Sept 12 – The World As I See It – review / giveaway
Sept 13 – Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh my! – book spotlight / giveaway
Sept 13 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Sept 14 – Musings Over Nothing – review / author interview
Sept 15 – T’s Stuff – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sept 19 – Readers Muse – review
Sept 19 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sept 20 – The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – review / guest post / giveaway
Sept 20 – The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review / giveaway
Sept 21 – Lisa Loves Literature – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sept 21 – Life as Leels – review
Sept 22 – fuonlyknew – review / giveaway
Sept 23 – Bound 4 Escape – review / giveaway
Sept 26 – Sylv all about books and films – review / guest post
Sept 28 – Book and Ink – review
Sept 29 – The Cubicle Escapee – book spotlight
Sept 30 – Bookmyopia – review
Sept 30 – Room With Books – review / guest post / giveaway
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The Girl on the Train – By Paula Hawkins

  Rating:

When Rachel isn’t drunk, she thinks about getting drunk. She is fired from her job. She lies, whines, and pines for her ex-husband. Envies his current wife. So yeah, her life is a train-wreck. Her only daily cheer is a catching a train to and fro every day; from Euston to Ashbury. As the train passes by the town she used to live in, it stops at a signal and across the same house every time. She likes looking at the young couple living in the house, she can see them in their terrace every morning. They remind her of the happier times she had with her husband. But the perfect image she had of them in her mind is shaken, when she sees something appalling. When a police case involving that couple ensues, she approaches the detectives with the information. But are they going to believe her?

The book has been compared to Gone Girl and Hawkins’ writing to Flynn’s. And I can see why. The story is told in past and present timelines, till the past ends and merges into the current day. Though Rachel is the narrator for the most part, there are couple of other women too. And none of them are too likeable. None are happy in their own lives and keep craving for validation from men. Rachel’s one-step forward and two-steps backward routine is frustrating to witness and her alcoholism makes her look pitiable. I felt sorry for her and felt like whacking her into her senses. I just wished, someone; be it her roommate or mom, is more forceful about helping her into rehab or AA meetings. But if she did sort herself out, the book wouldn’t have been half as seductive as it turned out to be. That’s the beauty of what Hawkins has done with this story, entrench the negative effects of alcoholism into the heart of the mystery. Rachel’s memory and version of events is so unreliable that she is barely able to recall anything or convince herself, let alone convince us readers. She trips up, makes a fool of herself in front of detectives, her words have no credibility, and yet she doggedly keeps at it. And I loved her for that. Because it felt good picking up a book with a narrator like that, especially after couple of recent reading experiences with either passive or ridiculously naïve protagonists.  Hawkins does an excellent job of juggling all the principal characters and keeping everyone relevant in moving the story forward.

The story is told in the “morning” and “evening” of each day, that took some getting used to. Because sometimes the previous night’s events are narrated during “morning”, the entire day’s events are narrated during “evening” and at other times it is just the present. I thought it was quite interesting and a different way to present the story. The book has some pretty insightful quotes too; this was my favourite:

For more quotes, check my Tumblr page here.

Two-thirds into the book, things start getting clearer (or maybe even earlier if you can take a good guess..) and maybe Hawkins could have held back the cards a bit longer. But it didn’t really take the fun out of reading the rest of the book. I was still eager to get the full picture; the when, why and how. It was such a smoothly written psychological thriller, and though it might not have had a final-pages flourish like Gone Girl, it didn’t have a hurried final-pages reveal like Sharp Objects either.

And now I come to the part where I have to find something strong and dramatic to end the review with a flourish, but I am not able to.. soooo … will just move on to the Amazon buy links:

Hardcover:  The Girl on the Train – Hardcover

Paperback: The Girl on the Train – Paperback

Kindle:  The Girl on the Train: Kindle